Where would be be without Thomas Sullivan? Who?
Well Thomas Sullivan was something of an accidental American inventor, but his impact on the world has been notable particular when you reach for your tea bags. For he is the man credited with inventing the paper bag that surrounds some tea leaves that allows the leaves to infuse the water with such panache.
Around 1908 Thomas Sullivan was working as a New York tea merchant and his clients kept asking him for samples of his products. Sullivan was only too happy to oblige and started packaging the tea leaves in small silken bags. Sullivan was expecting the clients to gently un-wrap the contents and use the tea leaves in the convention manner in a tea pot. However, the story goes that Sullivan’s customers instead looked at the small silken bags and wrongly deduced that they should be dunked in boiling water. Thus by complete and utter accident the tea bag was first created.
Thomas Sullivan then leapt on the idea and started to refine the product with the use of fine mesh made from a type of gauze. In the 1920’s these were further developed for large scale commercial production. Eventually the gauze was replaced by paper and came in two sizes, small for cups and large for tea pots.
One thing that was not developed accidentally was something that has become synonymous with a tea bag, the string and the tag for retrieving the used tea bag from the cup or tea pot.